LinkedIn Article - Oct 26, 2014

A very close friend of mine just resigned from what seemed “to me” a dream job. After an hour on the phone, parochialism seemed to be at the core of his reasoning.

As he was ok with his decision to move on, I took it at an opportunity to digress and discuss the fact that the real issue he had was ethnocentrism and not parochialism. Needless to say, after 20 minutes we agreed that the difference was too insignificant to quibble over 🙂

After the call, I could not help myself, so I did some research. Simply described, parochialism and ethnocentrism are elements of bias and misconception. The nuances between the two are that parochialism assumes that the ways of one’s own culture are the only way of doing things; while ethnocentrism assumes that the way of one’s culture are the best ways of doing things. Leaving little room for a different perspective or a new way of doing business – regardless of overwhelming data to the contrary.

To recognize if such a phenomenon exists in your organization, you will have to pay close attention to the way that employees would behave; as they would overwhelmingly display very specific behaviors.

Such behaviors include but are not limited to voting for, or otherwise advocating for proposals that ensure historical norms and the perceived support for their group at the expense of outsiders with a different perspective.

“…the tendency of people to favor a group that includes them, at the expense of outsiders and even at the expense of their own self-interest, has been called parochialism…” (Baron et. al. 2005)

Based on the above, one can assert that culture constitutes the principles and implicit laws that regulate the relations among members of the organization, and other components outside of the organization that are related in some way. One should understand the customs, characteristics, and practices of not only target markets, but also the organizations’ employees!

“Every society has a set of cultural values, or deeply held beliefs about right and wrong ways to live, that it imparts to its members.” (Solomon, 2011)

I have no issues with the above quote; I agree that it is critical to have a strong positive culture, as long as it does not hinder the long-term financial sustainability of the organization, nor violate any discrimination laws. However, the real question becomes:

Once an organization stops having a strong positive culture, and become one prone to parochialism and ethnocentrism, what steps must be taken to ensure long-term financial sustainability?